I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I'll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.
-- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church. Her mother was from an Algonquin tribe, and her father was a Mohawk. She was born in 1656 in a Mohawk village of a Mohawk chief. When she was small, her entire family died from a small pox outbreak and because of her own battle with the disease was left with scars on her face and was sickly throughout her life. She was raised by her uncle.
As was the custom of the time, she was to be married but never wanted to be. Instead she pledged her life to Christ and at the age of 19 converted to Catholicism. She continually fasted and prayed for conversion of the Mohawks. She had the virtues of diligence and patience.
However, many of her own people disagreed with her, and so she fled to a Christian tribe in Montreal to avoid persecution by her neighbors. There she was able to openly express her faith and had a steadfast devotion to Christ.
Because of her sickly nature, she passed away young, at age 24 on April 17, 1680.
Because of the way she lived, she is known as the patron saint of people in exile, ecology and the environment, and Native Americans.
St. Kateri’s tomb is found at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Kahnaqake, near Montreal, Quebec. She is honored at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Florida, NY, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, NY.